L. Neil Smith's
Number 364, April 23, 2006

We have a winner!

Searcy County Strikes Again
by Kathryn A. Graham

Special to TLE

As I watch my country disintegrate, I am frequently struck by a particular phenomenon. The deterioration is first and most often noticed on a local level. Oh, I certainly agree that our presidential Shrub is an evil moron, no doubt about it. His cronies and advisors aren't stupid, but they are even more evil than he is. All of this is very spectacular, and it is likely to get even more so when we see the coming mushroom clouds over Iran. Despite this, if the average American on the street retained even a tenth of the integrity and courage of our 19th Century ancestors—let alone the 18th Century giants that founded this nation—we could survive three more years of Shrub and Co. hands down.

Unfortunately, courage and integrity went by the wayside long, long before Shrub ever raised his right hand to take the presidential oath.

Those of you who have read my previous articles about Searcy County in TLE, such as "The Worm in the Apple," already have a fair idea of what I'm going to talk about here. Bear with me a moment, as I'd like to bring the newcomers up to speed a bit before I get to my main topic.

What and where is Searcy County? It's a county of seven thousand residents, give or take a few, in northwest Arkansas. It is the poorest county in one of the poorest states in the United States. Its largest town, Marshall, has a whopping 1,300 residents, more or less. It is also the Arkansas state capital for what I like to call "arkancide," my term for a suspicious death, usually labeled "suicide," that any moron can see clearly was not suicide, like the poor sod who supposedly shot himself five times clean through the heart with a .45. I'd really like to meet the fella that actually managed to do it twice, let alone five times—almost as badly as I'd like to talk to the sheriff's deputy who "found" the body. Or the coroner who managed to miss the other two bullet holes (there were seven, total) elsewhere on the body. It's an old, old story in Searcy County.

Also located in this desperately poor county is one whopper of a gorgeous, multi-million dollar airport with a state of the art runway and ILS system. This airport sports one huge, gorgeous hangar, supposedly disused and always locked, and the gate to the airport itself is always locked. There are no services here—no fuel and no maintenance. All the same, the FAA reports a whopping 63 movements per month here, usually in the hours between 1AM and 4AM. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what is arriving, nor does it take long to learn that the individuals protecting these shipments are the local judge and sheriff. And the local judge is a very, very wealthy man. Wonder how he got that way?

Many of the residents are aware of what is happening, but there is little they can do about it. Said judge and sheriff both consider themselves bullet proof, and they do not hesitate to throw their weight around when annoyed.

Having conducted a major investigation in that county, and having been initiated into the local "good guys" club by the judge's minions making two attempts on my life, one in Searcy County and another after I returned to South Texas, I have made a few friends there. They consider me an ally in this hopeless war they are fighting, and truthfully, I wish that I could be more of one. The idea of the afore-mentioned judge and sheriff spending a decade or two in the company of large (and sexually active) cell mates just tickles me to death.

Now, one of those allies is in trouble, and there isn't a single thing I can do about it.

It started with a dispute over grandparents' rights, actually. The man involved—we'll call him "Ray," which is neither his real nor his assumed name—is married to a lovely lady who has an estranged daughter. Both have been outspokenly critical of the county leadership. Recently, in the course of legally seeking visitation with their granddaughters (2 of them), they came to the attention of the sheriff's office. You see, their daughter works for the sheriff's department, and is romantically involved with one of the investigators. A few days after the grandparents' rights case was heard, and lost, Ray was arrested out of the blue.

Many years ago, more than thirty, Ray was a very bad boy. He was running with a seriously dangerous crowd that had organized crime connections. Armed robbery, two jailbreaks—his record isn't pretty, and about the only thing I can say here in his defense is that he never killed anyone. When he was caught, however, he turned state's evidence. As he was threatened by his former associates, he was offered an opportunity at the time to go into the witness protection program. He refused, as it would have meant severing all contact with his children. So he did his time and his parole, and has kept his nose scrupulously clean ever since. However, two attempts were made on his life soon after he came off state supervision, so he changed his name on his own—to his own brother's name, who had been killed in a car wreck a few years before. He made no secret of this fact to local law enforcement at the time, or to his soon to be wife, but simply used his brother's name to make himself a little harder to find.

This is all very Twilight Zone stuff to me. I have spent most of my adult life in a state where changing your name, if it is not done to defraud a creditor, is as simple as using the new name. It is entirely legal. However, it seems that changing your name in Arkansas requires the formal blessings of a judge.

Better yet, I am sitting here looking at a copy of the arrest warrant. They actually had the unmitigated gall to claim he committed this truly heinous crime so that he could vote!

Excuse me? By statute, a felon can vote in Arkansas once his sentence is discharged, as indeed he can in most states. This so-called "motive" doesn't hold water at all. Nevertheless, they have managed to inflate something utterly minor into 23 felony counts. That's twenty three felony counts, folks! And voting itself is the goal of a real criminal mastermind, yes, sir. It surely is.

Go ahead, tell me this isn't revenge. A man who has been an outstanding citizen for 30 years, become a pillar of his community, served on his local city council, and tried to help everyone he came into contact with for all this time—and now they uncover a minor infraction from decades ago, which was probably not even intentional (I am sure he did not know he had to go to a court to do this), and manage to inflate it into a whopping 23 felonies? It's revenge, all right!

So just how dangerous do they believe Ray really is? A man once convicted of several violent felonies, including two jail breaks, has been released on his own recognizance until trial. That's right—they didn't even make him post a financial bond. They are clearly very worried indeed. Either that, or they released him so easily so that his former associates would find it convenient to take care of their embarrassing problem for them.

As long as any officials use their position and power to strike out at their personal and political enemies, we are never going to fix what is wrong with this country. Housecleaning needs to start right here at home. Before we can fix what is wrong with Washington, we need to take a closer look at our own communities.

As for myself, there are unfortunately some things I just can't fix. Ray is certainly guilty of the horrific crime of changing his name. No amount of investigation I could provide will change that simple truth. As his real name has already been splashed all over the headlines of the local papers, I can't even help to protect his real identity from his old enemies. But I want to send one very clear and unambiguous warning to the Searcy County powers that be and Ray's former mob-connected associates. If Ray should become an "arkancide," I will know right down to my toes that it wasn't any form of suicide—and that it was neither a natural nor accidental death. I will go to work on that day, and I will never back up and never stop until I prove this beyond all reasonable doubt and see all the culprits in prison—or become an "arkancide" myself.

That's not a threat, Judge Stinking Pond Scum, Sheriff Slime Bucket—and various other unknown crooked types from 30 years ago. That's an iron-clad, word of honor promise.

So if you want me, come and get me! And pray for a lot of luck. You'll need it.


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